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Peter D.A. Wood

In this chapter, I analyze urban settlements located along national borders and borderlands as unique and informative sites of urbanism. The study of cities has recently taken a turn to provide alternative theorizations that shy away from overgeneralized models and normativity of the globally Northern city (Sheppard, Leitner and Maringanti, 2013). To contribute to this ongoing work, I first compare the role of border cities between the Global North and South, as well as challenges to this binary categorization of urban zones. Recent research on borders tends to focus on how political boundaries are as much re-territorializations as they are empirical subjects of study (Paasi, 2012). While various world regions receive attention in this research (Jones, 2009; Konrad and Nicol, 2011; Ladysz, 2006; Paasi, 1999), a more generalized assessment of borders as explicitly urban phenomena remains elusive. Urban studies, in contrast, have recently prioritized urban migration and growth in the Global South as a subject of study for its timely relevance (Parnell and Robinson, 2012). As cities grow, and as they grow in countries experiencing dramatic population increases, how they form and are planned is increasingly important. However, the lines crossed during these regional and global flows of movement are often underemphasized when dealing with concerns in urbanism; even when addressed, studies tend to focus on borders as sites of economic-security challenges, like the US–Mexico border (e.g., Dear and Leclerc, 2003; Herzog 1990). In this chapter I aim to bring attention to the intersection of these two bodies of work as they exist in current urban and geographic theory. After exploring differences and commonalities between Northern and Southern cities, I then analyze the historical, economic, and political contexts of different border regions throughout the world. Though sharing the common characteristic of a national border (or borders), not all metropolises in border regions function in the same fashion. Formulating an overarching view of border cities, including their complications and points of difference, is useful for articulating a multipolar and nuanced guide to cities in the 21st century.